The Port Authority Is a Disaster and Should Be Disbanded

A blog about business and economics.
Jan. 13 2014 3:59 PM

The Port Authority Is a Disaster and Should Be Disbanded

461563381-traffic-drives-across-the-george-washington-bridge
Ceci n'est pas un port.

Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images

One important subtheme in the Chris Christie George Washington Bridge scandal is that whether the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey shut the lanes in question down on Christie's orders or merely as part of a rogue Christie-aligned scheme, the authority was staffed with Christie's political cronies. That's par for the course in terms of Port Authority staffing, but it's literally the opposite of the stated purpose of creating independent agencies.

The theory was that you needed an independent agency controlled by a joint N.Y./N.J. board to supervise projects of interest to both state. The reality has been for governors of both New York and New Jersey to treat the authority is a kind of neither fish nor fowl piggy bank to be milked for parochial interests. Meanwhile there are no meaningful synergies between operating a small subway station, running the Atlantic City Airport, and operating a container port. The whole thing should be broken down and disbanded:

Advertisement
  • Put the bridges and tunnels under the control of MTA Bridges and Tunnels which runs the city's other bridges and tunnels, and in exchange give New Jersey Transit a fixed share of toll revenue from the Hudson River crossings.
  • Put the PATH train under the control of New Jersey Transit, which runs other commuter trains into Manhattan.
  • Let the various airports all go their separate ways. They don't need to be managed by a single entity.
  • Give AirTrain JFK to the NYC Subway.
  • Sell the random real-estate holdings.

This would then leave you with the actual seaports. I have no idea whether it's actually true that seaport management in this context requires a bistate agency. Maybe a rump Port Authority could keep running them. Or maybe they could be split up. But either way there's no need for a seaport administrating entity to become this regional transportation monstrosity. The MTA and New Jersey Transit are hardly perfect agencies, but at least we know which governor to blame for their failings!

Matthew Yglesias is the executive editor of Vox and author of The Rent Is Too Damn High.

TODAY IN SLATE

Politics

The Democrats’ War at Home

How can the president’s party defend itself from the president’s foreign policy blunders?

Congress’ Public Shaming of the Secret Service Was Political Grandstanding at Its Best

Michigan’s Tradition of Football “Toughness” Needs to Go—Starting With Coach Hoke

Windows 8 Was So Bad That Microsoft Will Skip Straight to Windows 10

A Plentiful, Renewable Resource That America Keeps Overlooking

Animal manure.

Politics

Cringing. Ducking. Mumbling.

How GOP candidates react whenever someone brings up reproductive rights or gay marriage.

Building a Better Workplace

You Deserve a Pre-cation

The smartest job perk you’ve never heard of.

The Ludicrous Claims Women Are Pitched at “Egg Freezing Parties”

Piper Kerman on Why She Dressed Like a Hitchcock Heroine for Her Prison Sentencing

Behold
Oct. 1 2014 11:48 AM An Up-Close Look at the U.S.–Mexico Border
  News & Politics
The World
Oct. 1 2014 12:20 PM Don’t Expect Hong Kong’s Protests to Spread to the Mainland
  Business
Business Insider
Oct. 1 2014 12:21 PM How One Entrepreneur Is Transforming Blood Testing
  Life
Outward
Oct. 1 2014 11:59 AM Ask a Homo: A Lesbian PDA FAQ
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 30 2014 12:34 PM Parents, Get Your Teenage Daughters the IUD
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Oct. 1 2014 10:54 AM “I Need a Pair of Pants That Won’t Bore Me to Death” Troy Patterson talks about looking sharp, flat-top fades, and being Slate’s Gentleman Scholar.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Oct. 1 2014 12:26 PM Where Do I Start With Leonard Cohen?
  Technology
Future Tense
Oct. 1 2014 11:48 AM Watch a Crowd Go Wild When Steve Jobs Moves a Laptop in This 1999 Demonstration of WiFi
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Oct. 1 2014 12:01 PM Rocky Snow
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 30 2014 5:54 PM Goodbye, Tough Guy It’s time for Michigan to fire its toughness-obsessed coach, Brady Hoke.